Understanding Gender-Based Violence as Colonial Violence

by Toby Nashak

Within indigenous communities, there is a widespread crisis related to trans identities. I believe that there should be some light shed on the topic.

In many of these communities, there is very minimal education on 2SLGBTQ+ topics. Due to the lasting impacts of colonialism,, there is a strong likelihood of people being closed minded; But this isn’t the only issue. The way that many of us see gender and sexualities that differ from the norm have been tainted by colonization.

What does this mean? Let me explain. Before colonizers came into our lives, we saw these topics very differently than we do now. Specifically regarding two spirits, members of our communities who were highly valued and respected in their communities. Through colonialism, two spirit people were stigmatized and erased in favor of Western gender models rife with misogyny, homophobia and transphobia.

Residential schools played a major role in the attempted erasure of two spirit identities. Once the white man came and realized that we had many things that differed from their perfect image that they wanted to present, they started trying to stop it. Their attempt at a culture genocide is still seen today; Colonizerst caused mountains and mountains of generational trauma and shame for our natural identities, imposing colonial ways of working that many of us are still trying to resist and dismantle today.

I have a direct comparison of the effects that residential schools have had on how we see 2SLGBTQ+ identities. A few years ago, i had started to explore the way that i express my gender identity. My mother, who has experienced many of the lasting effects of residential school, was very opposed to me doing anything that differed from my assigned gender at birth. But once my grandmother, someone who has not been a victim of the lasting trauma, found out about my exploration of my gender identity and welcomed me with an open heart. She did not experience any shame about my gender expression, but instead has been  one of my biggest supporters, even to this day.

There is a link between colonization and gender based violence towards indigenous communities. Indigenous women are four times more likely to be targeted for a hate crime than any other race of women. These statistics are much more horrifying when you take into account that indigenous women take up about 4 percent of the female Canadian population.

I strongly believe that these statistics should be taken into account when talking about gender based violence within Canada, as some of the most targeted populations are native. This is no coincidence. Indigenous communities should be much more protected and valued then they are today, especially when taking in that many missing persons reports for native people are rarely even investigated.

As someone who has suffered the effects of generational trauma related to residential schools, i hold this topic near and dear to my heart. And once you start noticing the patterns that colonizers caused, you start to realize how badly it continues to affect our people.

This is why we need much more representation and education on the history of how colonization has deeply effected native communities’ ties with trans identities. I strongly believe that once we, as a collective nation, start acknowledging the widespread effect of generational trauma on these sacred identities, The more that we can enable our beloved indigenous communities to heal.

Of course, there is no way to erase or forget about the long lasting effect of this trauma. But taking the steps to heal it are directly linked to reducing harm and improving  the livelihood of indigenous communities, especially women, two spirit and gender diverse people,  across the nation.

In conclusion, there should be much more education on indigenous activism. Native communities should be much more protected and valued. More leadership is needed to address gender-based violence and transphobia targeting Indigenous peoples and once we start acknowledging the major trauma that we endured, the more that we can heal as people.


Toby Nashak (he/it) is an Inuit transgender activist who is currently working on a lot of projects. Toby’s  heritage is extremely important to them and is intertwined with many other things in their life.

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